When Do You Give Up?

February 11th, 2010 • Kate

Giving_UpI wish this post was just off the cuff, and not in connection with anything I’m doing, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. The sad fact about publishing is this: not everyone is going to make it.

Sure, in this technologically evolving world, you can take your manuscript that’s been roundly rejected and self-publish it, and do so very successfully, but if you consider that a sort of “last-ditch” effort, it still means you’ve put aside your hope for a traditional publication.

So how (and when) do you make that decision? It’s certainly not when you’ve sent your book baby off only to your dream editor, who returned it unread. In my case, I’ve refused to give up after several rounds of submissions on some projects, ultimately landing a sale. On other projects, the author and I have looked at the rejections we’ve received, seen the hard truth in them, and agreed to put a project aside in favor of going out with something else, rather than whipping that poor expired equine any further.

There’s no number in my head (if I get to 20 submissions and no one buys it, I’m tossing the author!) and there may not be a number for you on the other side of things. We’re not in the business of numbers, anyway.

So what do words tell you? Well, nothing but form rejections on your query might say a pretty strong no — but that could just be your query letter, not your manuscript. If you’ve written a killer query, and were inundated with requests for the partial, only to have every agent reading it decline, that might say something else — in that case, I’d look closely at your rejection letters and look for similar reactions. And a pile of “No thanks” on your full — well, you still got to that stage, and I’m not sure I’d give up. Maybe THAT story isn’t the one that will get you the book contract, but lots of people seem to think you’ve got SOME talent — maybe you just need to try with something else.

I don’t know. I hate being a downer. It’s not in my nature. But I have to ask — is there a line in the sand somewhere that means “the end” for you? Where is it?

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23 Responses to “When Do You Give Up?”

  1. Patrick Says:

    I give up around 2:30pm every day. It seems like as good a time as any to give up. 11:30am seems just a bit too soon, with lunch on the way and everything.

  2. Delilah Dawson Says:

    I almost let the query process break me after my first book. Then, one night, it occurred to me that there are an infinite number of books in my head, and that each one I write, and each book I read, will get me a little bit closer to my dream of being published.

    I can keep doing this indefinitely, so long as there's a shred of hope.

  3. Georgia Says:

    It's easy to FEEL like giving up. I felt like that today when faced w/a rejection email first thing in the morning. But it's kind of like seearching for that perfect pair of shoes; if you give up the search, you will never find them. If you stop writing, stop submitting, stop hoping, you'll end up as one of those bitter, crotchety old farts who mumble on endlessly about how you were this century's undiscovered Judy Blume or something. So not pretty.

    I believe in my work, in my ability, in me. If I don't, who will? Maybe I won't sell another book ever. But I'll have a heck of a time trying. There is no better way to spend your life than writing.

    And BTW, I'm just as serious about shoes.

  4. Stina Says:

    When I get immersed in a whole new project and lose interest in the old one. 😀

    Great point about the reasons for the rejections. I think that's why writers hate form rejections, though most of us understand the reasons for them. It's hard to fix something when we don't know what is broken. Did the query suck, was there something wrong with the voice so the agent didn't connect, or was it really not right for the agent? But when agents are interested in the concept and give you feedback as to why they don't want to see more, then do what you can to deal with the problem and move on to the next group of agents. Of course you have to be ready to acknowledge the problem in the first place. 😉

  5. Rachel Says:

    Never! Well maybe when I die, but I gave my husband strict instructions that he is to continue the publishing hunt in case of my untimely death. But I really don't think anyone should give up. If you're getting all form rejections, change your query. If no one is requesting fulls from your partials, change your beginning. If your manuscripts are getting rejected, rewrite the book or write another one. You can also take creative writing classes, join a writers group, or hire an editor. I think there are a lot of other options besides giving up or self-publishing if you are willing to put in the effort.

  6. Jodi Meadows Says:

    I think some of us aren't born with the ability to give up. As recently as six months ago, I told myself I was giving up on trying to get published. (Not *writing*, mind you. I knew I couldn't stop that. Just the part where I hope people will give me money for it.)

    Apparently that didn't work out. I got over my bad mood and tried again. 🙂

  7. laura diamond Says:

    Give up? Is that an option?

    Nah. 🙂

  8. Abby Stevens Says:

    I've not hit the most emotionally wrenching stage (querying and the inevitable rejection) yet, but I doubt I'll ever give up. If I can write one book, I can write another, better one. I know I have the talent, I just have to keep sharpening my skills – writing and business – and have a little luck to boot. I'm not a carton of milk – there's no expiration date – I've got my whole life to make it.

    On the other hand, there are those people with 'American Idol syndrome' as I call it, who really should give up because the talent nor the skill is there. Those people have passion and confidence (the former which most writers have in abundance and the latter of which most talented writers suffer intermentent absenses of), and while those are admirable traits, they aren't enough to make it on.

    THE TABBY CATT's most recent blog:Shelf by Shelf #2

  9. Kathleen Says:

    I like Stina's reply…I give up when the new manuscript captures me so much that I lose interest in the old one.

  10. Bethany Says:

    I'm with Laura Diamond. Who said anything about giving up?

  11. Krista V. (the forme Says:

    I'm with Stina and Kathleen. 🙂

    But on a more serious note, I think you just know, somewhere down in the intestinal region, when it's time to move on to the next project, at least insofar as querying is concerned. For me, it's usually when thinking about that project makes me feel sadder, instead of more excited, about writing.

  12. Meghan Ward Says:

    I don't have an answer to this yet. I've had about five rejections on fulls, so I'm revising once again. I have to say that this will probably be my last revision. And then I'll query in batches, and if after 50+ rejections (from agents) I haven't had success, I think it will be time to set that one aside and start on the next book. I won't give up on getting published, but I have to be realistic about the individual projects. A lot of writers get their second books published, and that's okay.

  13. write-brained Says:

    Like Stina I had given up on my first "baby" a couple of months ago (lots of rejections on partials and fulls) and became completely immersed in two new ideas. I just knew my writing was better and it was freeing to finally let go and move on. I opened my email yesterday and saw a request for a partial for the first manuscript. The agent apologized for taking so long to get back to me. I actually laughed out loud and then wondered if he'd prefer to see my newer stuff (ooh that's a good question for you…).

    So give up altogether? NOT YET!

  14. Rowenna Says:

    For awhile I was in the mode of, to borrow antiquated military terms, "advance, never retreat." I've since realized that it's not necessarily a question of advancing or retreating, but sometimes rethinking strategy. I'm in a period of strategic retreat on my current project–after a couple rejections I want to take a hard look at it and reevaluate. I might put it out on the front lines again, as is, I might retool it, or I might decide I need reinforcements in the form of a new, different manuscript. But just because I stop pushing one project doesn't mean I'm giving up the fight entirely. No one says you fail as an author just because your first or tenth book doesn't get published–if you love it, keep doing it.

    Wow, sorry for the ridiculous extended metaphor. Sheesh.

  15. Tere Kirkland Says:

    It does sound pretty depressing when you put it like that. But I don't think of it as giving up–I think of it as changing projects. I've always got something stewing and getting going on a new story idea is the best remedy for the rejection blues in my opinion.

    And with each new manuscript, I know I'm getting better. So really, if you love writing, it's never really "giving up".

    Great discussion, and now that I'm reading the other comments, it's good to know that so many others stay optimistic in the face of rejection!

  16. Katie Says:

    I'm not sure I will be able to give up either. But I will agree with Abby about the American Idol syndrome. What if I think I'm talented, love what I do and my friends say I'm good but the judges roll their eyes and ask 'is this a joke?' But at least, unlike AI there is neither an age limit for try outs nor is there only one opportunity a year.

  17. Stina Says:

    Hey Katie, at least we don't have to watch when the judges (agents) roll their eyes at us. And we don't have to listen to their snarky comments (not that agents make those) when they wonder who told us we could write. 😀

  18. Lisa Gibson Says:

    Maybe when I reach the point where I want to give up, I'll feel differently. For now though, I believe if you don't have hope, you're in a bad spot. I can also say, it's important that you love to write and NOT do it for the sole reason of getting published. I love the time I spend writing and will continue doing it, don't get me wrong, being published is a goal but I write whether I get published or not.

  19. Shannon Says:

    I gave up on my YA. I love it, but I need to develop the story some more. I only sent it out to 8 agents and got one partial request. But, I'm a pretty ruthless self-critic. I know the beginning needs to be as well developed as the ending. It is finished, but I'm not finished with it. Does that make sense?

    With the YA shelved, I am going back to a women's novel. I think it has better potential. It's fun and sassy and I laugh while I write – always a good sign. It seems to almost write itself (except, I have the carple-tunnel (sp?) to prove I'm writing it) – another good sign.

    As far as giving up – not an option. I just started an office job that fell in my lap. Otherwise, I'd be home pounding the keyboard … and still do late into the evening.

  20. Paul Says:

    On my first manuscript I had mnay requests that all turned into rejections. Yes, I had a great query letter, but the book didn't live up to the letter.

    My second book, I didn't query but was told the writing was good but the story unmarketable.

    My third book, I queried, got requests which turned into rejections. I revised and queried again, got requests that turned into rejections. I revised, queried again and got five offers of representation. I'd say, don't give up if you don't want to. You never know. For me, the story that I thought was twice finished turned into a really different story with the subsequent revisions.

  21. Jolea Says:

    When writing is what you love, when it's your deepest passion, how can you give up? I tried just recently. I quit. There were too many rejections. The pity party lasted a little over a week and then I got a new idea to rework a problem spot in the book. I really didn't want to go back to it, but I couldn't help it. My uncle used to say growing old ain't for sissies. Neither is writing.

  22. callie Says:

    Well…this was very interesting. I think this proves that it takes a certain kind of person to write a book. The kind that has serious perseverance. lol.

    I think that if you asked this question in a different venue, you might get some different answers. But most people who have taken their desire for publication far enough to find a site like this are committed. People on this site have been on others. They are researching. Looking for ways to improve their work. Looking for what an agent likes and doesn't like. Chances are, if someone has come this far, they don't take their writing lightly.

    I'm assuming most of the people on here write for two reasons. One, because they have to. Writing is a calling. Something that, if it's in you, you can't give up. Two, the desire for publication. For me it's a strong desire, but it's still secondary to the need to write.

    However, if I'm going to keep writing…why not keep trying my best to get published? Eventually I'll get there. It's impossible to keep working at something and not improve at it. At least that's what I keep telling myself.:)

    So for me, the answer is I'll never stop trying. It just isn't an option.

  23. Georgia McBride Says:

    I wasn’t going to comment but then someone named Georgia commented and pretty much said what I would have said anyway! So, what the other Georgia said.